It’s been a hot topic recently, and one that Robin was quizzed on recently at the ISACA event in March. Personal data and what exactly Google, Facebook and the like hold on you, and what they can do with it. You may be astonished about just how much information we freely give and what can easily be surmised by the data we are transmitting from our pockets and handbags? I’m going to show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it. Below are a few examples of what Google knows and I have included some examples from my own data to show you.
I have included some links so that you can have a look at your own data that Google holds as well.
Google knows where you’ve been
Google stores your location (if you have location tracking turned on) every time you turn on your phone. You can see a timeline of where you’ve been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone.
Here is every place I have been in a 12 month period (2016). This isn’t just areas where I have ‘checked in’ or searched for, but where Google has tracked my travel and pauses in certain locations.
You can dive in to see the time of day that I was in the location and how long it took me to get to that location from my previous one. I can pick a certain date and see exactly where I went and the route taken between each location, as well as if I was walking or in a vehicle.
Google knows everything you’ve ever searched – and deleted
Google stores search history across all your devices. That can mean that, even if you delete your search history and phone history on one device, it may still have data saved from other devices.
Google has an advertisement profile of you
Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight and income.
Google knows all the apps you use
Google stores information on every app and extension you use. They know how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with. That means they know who you talk to on Facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time you go to sleep.
Google has all of your YouTube history
Google stores all of your YouTube history, so they probably know whether you’re going to be a parent soon, if you’re a conservative, if you’re a progressive, if you’re Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, if you’re anorexic or if you really enjoy cat videos.
The data Google has on you can fill millions of Word documents
Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you. I’ve requested to download it and the file is 9.3GB big, which is roughly 5m Word documents.
Manage to gain access to someone’s Google account? Perfect, you have a diary of everything that person has done
This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google.
They also have data from your calendar, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created, the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day. It is quite mind boggling just how much data we put out into the world that is stored and available to be analysed.
I’ll just do a short summary of what’s in the thousands of files I received under my Google Activity.
First, every Google Ad I’ve ever viewed or clicked on, every app I’ve ever launched or used and when I did it, every website I’ve ever visited and what time I did it at, and every app I’ve ever installed or searched for.
They also have every image I’ve ever searched for and saved, every location I’ve ever searched for or clicked on, every news article I’ve ever searched for or read, and every single Google search I’ve made since 2009. And then finally, every YouTube video I’ve ever searched for or viewed, since 2008.
Facebook has reams and reams of data on you, too
Facebook offers a similar option to download all your information. Mine was roughly 600MB, which is roughly 400,000 Word documents.
This includes every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone and their numbers, and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent.
They can access your webcam and microphone
The data they collect includes tracking where you are, what applications you have installed, when you use them, what you use them for, access to your webcam and microphone at any time, your contacts, your emails, your calendar, your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, the games you play, your photos and videos, your music, your search history, your browsing history, even what radio stations you listen to.
This information has millions of nefarious uses. You say you’re not a terrorist. Then how come you were googling Isis? Work at Google and you’re suspicious of your wife? Great, just look up her location and search history for the last 10 years. Manage to gain access to someone’s Google account? Perfect, you have a chronological diary of everything that person has done for the last 10 years.
This is one of the craziest things about the modern age. We would never let the government or a corporation put cameras/microphones in our homes or location trackers on us but with the boom in listening, assistance devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa there are now more and more ways companies these large companies are collecting data on us and are able to monetise this information. As we have mentioned before, data really is a most valuable commodity, make sure you aren’t giving yours away for free.